Engaging All Learners : Active and
Collaborative Strategies for
Alice UdvariAlice Udvari--Solner, Ph.D.Solner, Ph.D.
University of WI-Madison
Dept. of Curriculum & Instruction
To learn anything it helps to: To learn anything it helps to:
Hear it, See it, Hear it, See it,
Ask questions about it, Ask questions about it,
Discuss it with others, Do it, Discuss it with others, Do it,
Teach it and thenTeach it and then……Reflect on it. Reflect on it.
Select a learner who challenges you. Describe this Select a learner who challenges you. Describe this
person as a learner using short phrases and single person as a learner using short phrases and single
wordswords. Jot these descriptors around the semantic map.
Abolitionist | Almanac maker | Advertiser
Balloon enthusiast | Bifocals inventor
Composer | Cartoonist | Civic Citizen | Chess Player
Deist | Diplomat | Daylight Savings advocate
Enlightenment thinker | Electricity pioneer | Experimenter | Entrepreneur
Founding Father | Flirt | Fire fighter
Glass Armonica creator | Gulf Stream mapper | Genius
Humorist | Health nut
Inventor | International celebrity | Insurer
Junto creator | Journalist
Librarian | Lightning rod inventor | Londoner
Medical Engineer | Militia member | Mathematician | Mason
Organizer (militia, fire dept., street cleaning) | Odometer maker
Printer | Public relations master | Publisher | Prankster
Questioner | Quartermaster | Quintessential American
Revolutionary | Reader
Scientist | Swimmer | Self-made man
Traveler | Treaty signer
Volunteer | Visionary | Vegetarian (temporarily)
Writer | Weight lifter
Young prodigy | Yankee | Yarn spinner
Jerome Harste (1996) developed this shared reading strategy
that promotes comprehension and construction of meaning from text.
Students read a piece of text together, then at key points, they stop and
exchange thoughts about what has been read. Learners are
encouraged to look for relationships between new information and their
This active reading structure can be particularly helpful for
students who have comprehension difficulties and for students who are unable or
unlikely to read material outside of class. Allowing in-class reading assures that all
students are on the “same page” so to speak, regarding the content.
• Select a piece of text that ranges in length from a few sentences to a few pages.
• Place students in pairs and give each learner the reading selection.
• Tell students they will be reading the text as a team. Direct them to glance at the
text and decide the place in the text they will stop and “say something” to one
another. Tell them they may share a question that comes to mind, make a key point,
connect the information to personal experience, note something that was particularly
interesting, or paraphrase what was read.
• Ask them to begin reading. Remind them to repeat the process of stopping, sharing,
and starting until they finish the selection.
• After all pairs have completed the selection, a whole group discussion can be
When teaching students to engage in this strategy it may be necessary to demonstrate
the process for students and develop a list or menu of different ways to “say something”.
The instructor should move around the room during the process to assure that students
remain on topic and to monitor the length of the “say something” interchange. The goal
is to make brief comments to one another rather than launching into debate or
• In a unit comparing Creationism and Evolution, a high school science teacher used
this technique with two short readings; one an excerpt from a religious text and the
other an essay by Richard Leaky, famed archeologist, to spark interest and
controversy on the first day of instruction.
• Ruben, a fifth grade student who is legally blind is also a very gifted musician. He
loved talking to his music teacher about operas he attended with his family and new
music he was learning on the piano. To help Ruben share his talent with other
students, his music teacher used Say Something in a unique way. Before the class
was to attend Peter and the Wolf the teacher asked students to listen to short
segments of the symphony. Students were asked to pay attention to how the music
portrayed the characters, the dynamics of the piece (loudness and softness), and the
tempo. They were then cued to turn to a partner in the class and “say something”
about the different elements featured in the lesson. To demonstrate how to engage
in the activity, the teacher modeled the structure with Ruben. His complex answers
about the composer’s choices (e.g., Ruben noted that all of the characters are
represented by a certain instrument) stunned classmates while helping them learn
more about the play and about the collaborative structure they were using.
• A middle school art teacher used this technique to introduce the surrealist painting
styles of Frida Kahlo, Mark Chagall, & Salvador Dali. Each student pair was given a
series of pictures by the artists. The teacher used a 3 minute egg-timer to set a time
frame for the students to study each reproduction of the artist’s work. At each 3
minute interval the teacher cued the students to stop and “say something” to their
partner. Afterward the teacher asked students to comment on their emotional
responses to the pictures, on the common or dissimilar styles of painting and on the
possible hidden messages intended by the artists.
Methods to Maximize Engagement & Participation
• As noted in the examples above Say Something can be used with non-text material.
Students may be partnered with one student examining text on a topic and the other
examining visual media (photos, pictures). At an agreed upon time frame (e.g., after
examining the materials for 3 minutes) students can stop and say something.
• Students may also be paired with readings on the same topic but at different reading
levels. At the stopping points students share what they have gained from their own
• Say Something can be implemented with one person in the partnership reading
• For students who read at a different pace, the student who completes the reading
first can write down his/her say-something comment while her partner completes the
• Both students can keep a running list of comments and questions that have been
generated and use it during the class discussion. This list can also assist the teacher
to assess student accountability.
• The teacher can prescribe the nature of the exchange between students as was
illustrated in the music example above.
Ideas for Using This Structure in My Classroom
Udvari-Solner, A., & Kluth, P. (2008). Joyful learning: Active and collaborative learning
for inclusive classrooms. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press. Duplicate only with
permission of authors
Novice or Veteran?
This structure provides a method for differentiation when there is a
clear discrepancy in the class between students who are more experienced
and students who are less experienced with a topic or concept. Students
who self-identify as novices on a topic have the opportunity to explore multi-
sensory and multi-level materials to learn more about the topic while
students who identify themselves as veterans on the topic must formulate a
fact or example to illustrate the concept. Members of the veteran group must
join their separate pieces of information into a coherent mini-lecture which is
then delivered to the rest of the class. And novices generate questions from their
individual study of the topic to ask (or stump!) the veterans.
• It is critical the teacher emphasize that we are all both novices and veterans. Our
position of novice or veteran is dynamic and will change with different topics or skills.
For example, you may be a veteran regarding molecular biology but a novice in
• At the start of a new topic or unit of instruction, do an assessment or ask stud